Chief executive’s salary was 10% of charity's total spending, Dáil told

Wallace asks why non-profit group Pobal has charity status

 Mick Wallace at Leinster House. File photograph: Eric Luke

Mick Wallace at Leinster House. File photograph: Eric Luke

 

The chief executive of a charity received a salary that accounted for more than 10 per cent of the organisation’s total expenditure, the Dáil was told as questions were raised about accountability in the charitable sector on Tuesday.

Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace said the Charities Regulator issued guidelines last July on internal financial controls but there was little reference to salaries, particularly those of the chief executives.

He said the chief executive of the Asthma Society of Ireland was paid €95,000 in 2016, a year in which the organisation’s expenditure was €885,000.

“Some 33 per cent of its funding came from the Government yet the CEO was paid more than 10 per cent of all funding,” Mr Wallace said. Mr Wallace added that “it seems a bit odd”.

He was “not pointing the finger at any charity but just saying this is an area that needs much tighter regulation.”

During the first Rural and Community Affairs question time for Minister of State Michael Ring in the Dáil, Mr Wallace also questioned why the company that manages Government and EU programmes is registered as a charity.

Mr Wallace said not-for-profit company Pobal had an annual expenditure of more than €450 million and was “basically a private wing of the Government set up to provide administrative services and distribute payments for various Departments”.

He said Pobal noted on its website that its activities are shaped by policies laid out in the Programme for Government. The company aims to improve outcomes for people suffering disadvantage or social exclusion.

The Wexford TD noted that an internal audit in the Department of Children in 2014 expressed concerns about payments made to Pobal to monitor compliance among childcare providers.

“The auditors could not understand the annual fee of €2.5 million it received” and they noted that the work was awarded to Pobal without a tender process which could be in breach of EU directives.

“But nothing happened about that which is a bit worrying.”

He also noted an internal document from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform from 2014 which stated that Pobal “has not produced evidence to show how it specifically has promoted social inclusion or countered disadvantage through the implementation of programmes”.

He said “I do not understand the reason it is registered as a charity or for that matter how it even qualified for charitable status”.

Mr Wallace called for an in-depth look at organisations that identify as charities to check if they met the criteria.

Minister of State Sean Kyne stressed that the Charities Regulator was independent in the execution of its duties. He said he could not comment on any particular group under investigation or on findings that might arise because it could prejudice the investigation.

“Personally I have not heard of any issues regarding Pobal,” but he said if Mr Wallace had any information to share the department would be happy to examine it.

He noted that 9,061 charities were registered with the regulator at the end of last year and a number of others were registered automatically because they had a valid charitable tax exemption from the Revenue Commissioners.

He said the regulator was prioritising its focus on larger charities in the initial phases. The Minister acknowledged that there had been public concern over the rates of pay for some CEOs in the charity sector which had caused disquiet in recent years.

Mr Kyne said the Charities Regulator wants to ensure there is a single website where all information can be found about any charity regarding staff numbers, expenditure, whether its accounts are up to date and whether everything is correct in relation to corporate governance. He said: “It wants a one-stop-shop for all charities.”